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American Negro Slavery by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips

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A Survey of the Supply,
Employment and Control
Of Negro Labor
As Determined by the Plantation Regime








The Portuguese began exploring the west coast of Africa shortly before
Christopher Columbus was born; and no sooner did they encounter negroes
than they began to seize and carry them in captivity to Lisbon. The court
chronicler Azurara set himself in 1452, at the command of Prince Henry, to
record the valiant exploits of the negro-catchers. Reflecting the spirit
of the time, he praised them as crusaders bringing savage heathen for
conversion to civilization and christianity. He gently lamented the
massacre and sufferings involved, but thought them infinitely outweighed by
the salvation of souls. This cheerful spirit of solace was destined long to
prevail among white peoples when contemplating the hardships of the colored
races. But Azurara was more than a moralizing annalist. He acutely observed
of the first cargo of captives brought from southward of the Sahara, less
than a decade before his writing, that after coming to Portugal "they never
more tried to fly, but rather in time forgot all about their own country,"
that "they were very loyal and obedient servants, without malice"; and that
"after they began to use clothing they were for the most part very fond of
display, so that they took great delight in robes of showy colors, and such
was their love of finery that they picked up the rags that fell from the
coats of other people of the country and sewed them on their own garments,
taking great pleasure in these, as though it were matter of some greater
perfection."[1] These few broad strokes would portray with equally happy
precision a myriad other black servants born centuries after the writer's
death and dwelling in a continent of whose existence he never dreamed.
Azurara wrote further that while some of the captives were not able to
endure the change and died happily as Christians, the others, dispersed
among Portuguese households, so ingratiated themselves that many were
set free and some were married to men and women of the land and acquired
comfortable estates. This may have been an earnest of future conditions in
Brazil and the Spanish Indies; but in the British settlements it fell out
far otherwise.

[Footnote 1: Gomez Eannes de Azurara _Chronicle of the Discovery and
Conquest of Guinea_, translated by C.R. Beazley and E.P. Prestage, in the
Hakluyt Society _Publications_, XCV, 85.]

As the fifteenth century wore on and fleets explored more of the African
coast with the double purpose of finding a passage to India and exploiting
any incidental opportunities for gain, more and more human cargoes were
brought from Guinea to Portugal and Spain. But as the novelty of the blacks
wore off they were held in smaller esteem and treated with less liberality.
Gangs of them were set to work in fields from which the Moorish occupants
had recently been expelled. The labor demand was not great, however, and
when early in the sixteenth century West Indian settlers wanted negroes
for their sugar fields, Spain willingly parted with some of hers. Thus did
Europe begin the coercion of African assistance in the conquest of the
American wilderness.

Guinea comprises an expanse about a thousand miles wide lying behind
three undulating stretches of coast, the first reaching from Cape Verde
southeastward nine hundred miles to Cape Palmas in four degrees north
latitude, the second running thence almost parallel to the equator a
thousand miles to Old Calabar at the head of "the terrible bight of
Biafra," the third turning abruptly south and extending some fourteen
hundred miles to a short distance below Benguela where the southern desert
begins. The country is commonly divided into Upper Guinea or the Sudan,
lying north and west of the great angle of the coast, and Lower Guinea,
the land of the Bantu, to the southward. Separate zones may also be
distinguished as having different systems of economy: in the jungle belt
along the equator bananas are the staple diet; in the belts bordering this
on the north and south the growing of millet and manioc respectively, in
small clearings, are the characteristic industries; while beyond the edges
of the continental forest cattle contribute much of the food supply. The
banana, millet and manioc zones, and especially their swampy coastal
plains, were of course the chief sources of slaves for the transatlantic

Of all regions of extensive habitation equatorial Africa is the worst. The
climate is not only monotonously hot, but for the greater part of each year
is excessively moist. Periodic rains bring deluge and periodic tornadoes
play havoc. The dry seasons give partial relief, but they bring occasional
blasts from the desert so dry and burning that all nature droops and is
grateful at the return of the rains. The general dank heat stimulates
vegetable growth in every scale from mildew to mahogany trees, and
multiplies the members of the animal kingdom, be they mosquitoes, elephants
or boa constrictors. There would be abundant food but for the superabundant
creatures that struggle for it and prey upon one another. For mankind life
is at once easy and hard. Food of a sort may often be had for the plucking,
and raiment is needless; but aside from the menace of the elements human
life is endangered by beasts and reptiles in the forest, crocodiles and
hippopotami in the rivers, and sharks in the sea, and existence is made a
burden to all but the happy-hearted by plagues of insects and parasites. In
many districts tse-tse flies exterminate the cattle and spread the fatal
sleeping-sickness among men; everywhere swarms of locusts occasionally
destroy the crops; white ants eat timbers and any other useful thing, short
of metal, which may come in their way; giant cockroaches and dwarf
brown ants and other pests in great variety swarm in the dwellings
continuously--except just after a village has been raided by the great
black ants which are appropriately known as "drivers." These drivers march
in solid columns miles on miles until, when they reach food resources to
their fancy, they deploy for action and take things with a rush. To stay
among them is to die; but no human being stays. A cry of "Drivers!" will
depopulate a village instantly, and a missionary who at one moment has been
combing brown ants from his hair will in the next find himself standing
safely in the creek or the water barrel, to stay until the drivers have
taken their leave. Among less spectacular things, mosquitoes fly in crowds
and leave fevers in their wake, gnats and flies are always on hand, chigoes
bore and breed under toe-nails, hook-worms hang themselves to the walls of
the intestines, and other threadlike worms enter the eyeballs and the flesh
of the body. Endurance through generations has given the people large
immunity from the effects of hook-worm and malaria, but not from the
indigenous diseases, kraw-kraw, yaws and elephantiasis, nor of course from
dysentery and smallpox which the Europeans introduced. Yet robust health is
fairly common, and where health prevails there is generally happiness, for
the negroes have that within their nature. They could not thrive in Guinea
without their temperament.

It is probable that no people ever became resident on or near the west
coast except under compulsion. From the more favored easterly regions
successive hordes have been driven after defeat in war. The Fangs on the
Ogowe are an example in the recent past. Thus the inhabitants of Guinea,
and of the coast lands especially, have survived by retreating and
adapting themselves to conditions in which no others wished to dwell. The
requirements of adaptation were peculiar. To live where nature supplies
Turkish baths without the asking necessitates relaxation. But since undue
physical indolence would unfit people for resistance to parasites and
hostile neighbors, the languid would perish. Relaxation of mind, however,
brought no penalties. The climate in fact not only discourages but
prohibits mental effort of severe or sustained character, and the negroes
have submitted to that prohibition as to many others, through countless
generations, with excellent grace. So accustomed were they to interdicts of
nature that they added many of their own through conventional taboo, some
of them intended to prevent the eating of supposedly injurious food, others
calculated to keep the commonalty from infringing upon the preserves of the

[Footnote 2: A convenient sketch of the primitive African regime is J.A.
Tillinghast's _The Negro in Africa and America_, part I. A fuller survey
is Jerome Dowd's _The Negro Races_, which contains a bibliography of the
sources. Among the writings of travelers and sojourners particularly
notable are Mary Kingsley's _Travels in West Africa_ as a vivid picture of
coast life, and her _West African Studies_ for its elaborate and convincing
discussion of fetish, and the works of Sir A.B. Ellis on the Tshi-, Ewe-
and Yoruba-speaking peoples for their analyses of institutions along the
Gold Coast.]

No people is without its philosophy and religion. To the Africans the
forces of nature were often injurious and always impressive. To invest them
with spirits disposed to do evil but capable of being placated was perhaps
an obvious recourse; and this investiture grew into an elaborate system of
superstition. Not only did the wind and the rain have their gods but each
river and precipice, and each tribe and family and person, a tutelary
spirit. These might be kept benevolent by appropriate fetish ceremonies;
they might be used for evil by persons having specially great powers over
them. The proper course for common-place persons at ordinary times was to
follow routine fetish observances; but when beset by witch-work the only
escape lay in the services of witch-doctors or priests. Sacrifices were
called for, and on the greatest occasions nothing short of human sacrifice
was acceptable.

As to diet, vegetable food was generally abundant, but the negroes were not
willingly complete vegetarians. In the jungle game animals were scarce, and
everywhere the men were ill equipped for hunting. In lieu of better they
were often fain to satisfy their craving for flesh by eating locusts and
larvae, as tribes in the interior still do. In such conditions cannibalism
was fairly common. Especially prized was an enemy slain in war, for not
only would his body feed the hungry but fetish taught that his bravery
would pass to those who shared the feast.

In African economy nearly all routine work, including agriculture, was
classed as domestic service and assigned to the women for performance. The
wife, bought with a price at the time of marriage, was virtually a slave;
her husband her master. Now one woman might keep her husband and children
in but moderate comfort. Two or more could perform the family tasks much
better. Thus a man who could pay the customary price would be inclined to
add a second wife, whom the first would probably welcome as a lightener of
her burdens. Polygamy prevailed almost everywhere.

Slavery, too, was generally prevalent except among the few tribes who
gained their chief sustenance from hunting. Along with polygamy, it perhaps
originated, if it ever had a distinct beginning, from the desire to lighten
and improve the domestic service. [3] Persons became slaves through
capture, debt or malfeasance, or through the inheritance of the status.
While the ownership was absolute in the eyes of the law and captives
were often treated with great cruelty, slaves born in the locality were
generally regarded as members of their owner's family and were shown much
consideration. In the millet zone where there was much work to be done the
slaveholdings were in many cases very large and the control relatively
stringent; but in the banana districts an easy-going schedule prevailed for
all. One of the chief hardships of the slaves was the liability of being
put to death at their master's funeral in order that their spirits might
continue in his service. In such case it was customary on the Gold Coast
to give the victim notice of his approaching death by suddenly thrusting a
knife through each cheek with the blades crossing in his mouth so that he
might not curse his master before he died. With his hands tied behind him
he would then be led to the ceremonial slaughter. The Africans were in
general eager traders in slaves as well as other goods, even before the
time when the transatlantic trade, by giving excessive stimulus to raiding
and trading, transformed the native economy and deranged the social order.

[Footnote 3: Slavery among the Africans and other primitive peoples has
been elaborately discussed by H.J. Nieboer, _Slavery as an Industrial
System: Ethnological Researches_ (The Hague, 1900).]

Apart from a few great towns such as Coomassee and Benin, life in Guinea
was wholly on a village basis, each community dwelling in its own clearing
and having very slight intercourse with its neighbors. Politically each
village was governed by its chief and its elders, oftentimes in complete
independence. In occasional instances, however, considerable states of
loose organization were under the rule of central authorities. Such states
were likely to be the creation of invaders from the eastward, the Dahomans
and Ashantees for example; but the kingdom of Benin appears to have arisen
indigenously. In many cases the subordination of conquered villages merely
resulted in their paying annual tribute. As to language, Lower Guinea spoke
multitudinous dialects of the one Bantu tongue, but in Upper Guinea there
were many dialects of many separate languages.

Land was so abundant and so little used industrially that as a rule it
was not owned in severalty; and even the villages and tribes had little
occasion to mark the limits of their domains. For travel by land there were
nothing but narrow, rough and tortuous foot-paths, with makeshift bridges
across the smaller streams. The rivers were highly advantageous both as
avenues and as sources of food, for the negroes were expert at canoeing and

Intertribal wars were occasional, but a crude comity lessened their
frequency. Thus if a man of one village murdered one of another, the
aggrieved village if too weak to procure direct redress might save its
face by killing someone in a third village, whereupon the third must by
intertribal convention make common cause with the second at once, or else
coerce a fourth into the punitive alliance by applying the same sort of
persuasion that it had just felt. These later killings in the series were
not regarded as murders but as diplomatic overtures. The system was hard
upon those who were sacrificed in its operation, but it kept a check upon

A skin stretched over the section of a hollow tree, and usually so
constructed as to have two tones, made an instrument of extraordinary use
in communication as well as in music. By a system long anticipating the
Morse code the Africans employed this "telegraph drum" in sending
messages from village to village for long distances and with great speed.
Differences of speech were no bar, for the tom tom code was interlingual.
The official drummer could explain by the high and low alternations of his
taps that a deed of violence just done was not a crime but a _pourparler_
for the forming of a league. Every week for three months in 1800 the
tom toms doubtless carried the news throughout Ashantee land that King
Quamina's funeral had just been repeated and two hundred more slaves slain
to do him honor. In 1806 they perhaps reported the ending of Mungo Park's
travels by his death on the Niger at the hands of the Boussa people. Again
and again drummers hired as trading auxiliaries would send word along the
coast and into the country that white men's vessels lying at Lagos, Bonny,
Loango or Benguela as the case might be were paying the best rates in
calico, rum or Yankee notions for all slaves that might be brought.

In music the monotony of the tom tom's tone spurred the drummers to
elaborate variations in rhythm. The stroke of the skilled performer could
make it mourn a funeral dirge, voice the nuptial joy, throb the pageant's
march, and roar the ambush alarm. Vocal music might be punctuated by tom
toms and primitive wind or stringed instruments, or might swell in solo
or chorus without accompaniment. Singing, however, appears not so
characteristic of Africans at home as of the negroes in America. On the
other hand garrulous conversation, interspersed with boisterous laughter,
lasted well-nigh the livelong day. Daily life, indeed, was far from dull,
for small things were esteemed great, and every episode was entertaining.
It can hardly be maintained that savage life is idyllic. Yet the question
remains, and may long remain, whether the manner in which the negroes were
brought into touch with civilization resulted in the greater blessing or
the greater curse. That manner was determined in part at least by the
nature of the typical negroes themselves. Impulsive and inconstant,
sociable and amorous, voluble, dilatory, and negligent, but robust,
amiable, obedient and contented, they have been the world's premium slaves.
Prehistoric Pharaohs, mediaeval Pashas and the grandees of Elizabethan
England esteemed them as such; and so great a connoisseur in household
service as the Czar Alexander added to his palace corps in 1810 two free
negroes, one a steward on an American merchant ship and the other a
body-servant whom John Quincy Adams, the American minister, had brought
from Massachusetts to St. Petersburg.[4]

[Footnote 4: _Writings of John Quincy Adams_, Ford ed., III, 471, 472 (New
York, 1914).]

The impulse for the enslavement of negroes by other peoples came from the
Arabs who spread over northern Africa in the eighth century, conquering and
converting as they went, and stimulating the trade across the Sahara until
it attained large dimensions. The northbound caravans carried the peculiar
variety of pepper called "grains of paradise" from the region later known
as Liberia, gold from the Dahomey district, palm oil from the lower Niger,
and ivory and slaves from far and wide. A small quantity of these various
goods was distributed in southern Europe and the Levant. And in the same
general period Arab dhows began to take slave cargoes from the east coast
of Africa as far south as Mozambique, for distribution in Arabia, Persia
and western India. On these northern and eastern flanks of Guinea where the
Mohammedans operated and where the most vigorous of the African peoples
dwelt, the natives lent ready assistance in catching and buying slaves in
the interior and driving them in coffles to within reach of the Moorish and
Arab traders. Their activities, reaching at length the very center of the
continent, constituted without doubt the most cruel of all branches of the
slave-trade. The routes across the burning Sahara sands in particular came
to be strewn with negro skeletons.[5]

[Footnote 5: Jerome Dowd, "The African Slave Trade," in the _Journal of
Negro History_, II (1917), 1-20.]

This overland trade was as costly as it was tedious. Dealers in Timbuctoo
and other centers of supply must be paid their price; camels must be
procured, many of which died on the journey; guards must be hired to
prevent escapes in the early marches and to repel predatory Bedouins in the
later ones; food supplies must be bought; and allowance must be made for
heavy mortality among the slaves on their terrible trudge over the burning
sands and the chilling mountains. But wherever Mohammedanism prevailed,
which gave particular sanction to slavery as well as to polygamy, the
virtues of the negroes as laborers and as eunuch harem guards were so
highly esteemed that the trade was maintained on a heavy scale almost if
not quite to the present day. The demand of the Turks in the Levant and the
Moors in Spain was met by exportations from the various Barbary ports. Part
of this Mediterranean trade was conducted in Turkish and Moorish vessels,
and part of it in the ships of the Italian cities and Marseilles and
Barcelona. Venice for example had treaties with certain Saracen rulers at
the beginning of the fourteenth century authorizing her merchants not only
to frequent the African ports, but to go in caravans to interior points and
stay at will. The principal commodities procured were ivory, gold, honey
and negro slaves.[6]

[Footnote 6: The leading authority upon slavery and the slave-trade in the
Mediterranean countries of Europe is J.A. Saco, _Historia de la Esclavitud
desde los Tiempas mas remotas hasta nuestros Dias_ (Barcelona, 1877), vol.

The states of Christian Europe, though little acquainted with negroes,
had still some trace of slavery as an inheritance from imperial Rome
and barbaric Teutondom. The chattel form of bondage, however, had quite
generally given place to serfdom; and even serfdom was disappearing in
many districts by reason of the growth of towns and the increase of rural
population to the point at which abundant labor could be had at wages
little above the cost of sustaining life. On the other hand so long as
petty wars persisted the enslavement of captives continued to be at least
sporadic, particularly in the south and east of Europe, and a considerable
traffic in white slaves was maintained from east to west on the
Mediterranean. The Venetians for instance, in spite of ecclesiastical
prohibitions, imported frequent cargoes of young girls from the countries
about the Black Sea, most of whom were doomed to concubinage and
prostitution, and the rest to menial service.[7] The occurrence of the
Crusades led to the enslavement of Saracen captives in Christendom as well
as of Christian captives in Islam.

[Footnote 7: W.C. Hazlitt, _The Venetian Republic_(London, 1900), pp. 81,

The waning of the Crusades ended the supply of Saracen slaves, and the
Turkish capture of Constantinople in 1453 destroyed the Italian trade on
the Black Sea. No source of supply now remained, except a trickle from
Africa, to sustain the moribund institution of slavery in any part of
Christian Europe east of the Pyrenees. But in mountain-locked Roussillon
and Asturias remnants of slavery persisted from Visigothic times to the
seventeenth century; and in other parts of the peninsula the intermittent
wars against the Moors of Granada supplied captives and to some extent
reinvigorated slavery among the Christian states from Aragon to Portugal.
Furthermore the conquest of the Canaries at the end of the fourteenth
century and of Teneriffe and other islands in the fifteenth led to the
bringing of many of their natives as slaves to Castille and the neighboring

Occasional documents of this period contain mention of negro slaves at
various places in the Spanish peninsula, but the number was clearly small
and it must have continued so, particularly as long as the supply was drawn
through Moorish channels. The source whence the negroes came was known to
be a region below the Sahara which from its yield of gold and ivory was
called by the Moors the land of wealth, "Bilad Ghana," a name which on the
tongues of European sailors was converted into "Guinea." To open a direct
trade thither was a natural effort when the age of maritime exploration
began. The French are said to have made voyages to the Gold Coast in the
fourteenth century, though apparently without trading in slaves. But in
the absence of records of their activities authentic history must confine
itself to the achievements of the Portuguese.

In 1415 John II of Portugal, partly to give his five sons opportunity to
win knighthood in battle, attacked and captured the Moorish stronghold of
Ceuta, facing Gibraltar across the strait. For several years thereafter the
town was left in charge of the youngest of these princes, Henry, who there
acquired an enduring desire to gain for Portugal and Christianity the
regions whence the northbound caravans were coming. Returning home, he
fixed his residence at the promontory of Sagres, on Cape St. Vincent,
and made his main interest for forty years the promotion of maritime
exploration southward.[8] His perseverance won him fame as "Prince
Henry the Navigator," though he was not himself an active sailor; and
furthermore, after many disappointments, it resulted in exploration as far
as the Gold Coast in his lifetime and the rounding of the Cape of Good Hope
twenty-five years after his death. The first decade of his endeavor brought
little result, for the Sahara shore was forbidding and the sailors timid.
Then in 1434 Gil Eannes doubled Cape Bojador and found its dangers
imaginary. Subsequent voyages added to the extent of coast skirted until
the desert began to give place to inhabited country. The Prince was now
eager for captives to be taken who might inform him of the country, and in
1441 Antam Gonsalvez brought several Moors from the southern edge of the
desert, who, while useful as informants, advanced a new theme of interest
by offering to ransom themselves by delivering on the coast a larger number
of non-Mohammedan negroes, whom the Moors held as slaves. Partly for the
sake of profit, though the chronicler says more largely to increase the
number of souls to be saved, this exchange was effected in the following
year in the case of two of the Moors, while a third took his liberty
without delivering his ransom. After the arrival in Portugal of these
exchanged negroes, ten in number, and several more small parcels of
captives, a company organized at Lagos under the direction of Prince Henry
sent forth a fleet of six caravels in 1444 which promptly returned with 225
captives, the disposal of whom has been recounted at the beginning of this

[Footnote 8: The chief source for the early Portuguese voyages is Azurara's
_Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea_, already cited.]

In the next year the Lagos Company sent a great expedition of twenty-six
vessels which discovered the Senegal River and brought back many natives
taken in raids thereabout; and by 1448 nearly a thousand captives had been
carried to Portugal. Some of these were Moorish Berbers, some negroes,
but most were probably Jolofs from the Senegal, a warlike people of mixed
ancestry. Raiding in the Jolof country proved so hazardous that from about
1454 the Portuguese began to supplement their original methods by planting
"factories" on the coast where slaves from the interior were bought from
their native captors and owners who had brought them down in caravans
and canoes. Thus not only was missionary zeal eclipsed but the desire of
conquest likewise, and the spirit of exploration erelong partly subdued, by
commercial greed. By the time of Prince Henry's death in 1460 Portugal was
importing seven or eight hundred negro slaves each year. From this time
forward the traffic was conducted by a succession of companies and
individual grantees, to whom the government gave the exclusive right for
short terms of years in consideration of money payments and pledges of
adding specified measures of exploration. As new coasts were reached
additional facilities were established for trade in pepper, ivory and gold
as well as in slaves. When the route round Africa to India was opened at
the end of the century the Guinea trade fell to secondary importance, but
it was by no means discontinued.

Of the negroes carried to Portugal in the fifteenth century a large
proportion were set to work as slaves on great estates in the southern
provinces recently vacated by the Moors, and others were employed as
domestic servants in Lisbon and other towns. Some were sold into Spain
where they were similarly employed, and where their numbers were recruited
by a Guinea trade in Spanish vessels in spite of Portugal's claim of
monopoly rights, even though Isabella had recognized these in a treaty of
1479. In short, at the time of the discovery of America Spain as well as
Portugal had quite appreciable numbers of negroes in her population and
both were maintaining a system of slavery for their control.

When Columbus returned from his first voyage in the spring of 1493 and
announced his great landfall, Spain promptly entered upon her career
of American conquest and colonization. So great was the expectation of
adventure and achievement that the problem of the government was not how
to enlist participants but how to restrain a great exodus. Under heavy
penalties emigration was restricted by royal decrees to those who procured
permission to go. In the autumn of the same year fifteen hundred men,
soldiers, courtiers, priests and laborers, accompanied the discoverer
on his second voyage, in radiant hopes. But instead of wealth and high
adventure these Argonauts met hard labor and sickness. Instead of the rich
cities of Japan and China sought for, there were found squalid villages of
Caribs and Lucayans. Of gold there was little, of spices none.

Columbus, when planting his colony at Isabella, on the northern coast
of Hispaniola (Hayti), promptly found need of draught animals and other
equipment. He wrote to his sovereigns in January, 1494, asking for the
supplies needed; and he offered, pending the discovery of more precious
things, to defray expenses by shipping to Spain some of the island natives,
"who are a wild people fit for any work, well proportioned and very
intelligent, and who when they have got rid of their cruel habits to which
they have been accustomed will be better than any other kind of slaves."[9]
Though this project was discouraged by the crown, Columbus actually took a
cargo of Indians for sale in Spain on his return from his third voyage;
but Isabella stopped the sale and ordered the captives taken home and
liberated. Columbus, like most of his generation, regarded the Indians
as infidel foreigners to be exploited at will. But Isabella, and to some
extent her successors, considered them Spanish subjects whose helplessness
called for special protection. Between the benevolence of the distant
monarchs and the rapacity of the present conquerors, however, the fate of
the natives was in little doubt. The crown's officials in the Indies were
the very conquerors themselves, who bent their soft instructions to fit
their own hard wills. A native rebellion in Hispaniola in 1495 was crushed
with such slaughter that within three years the population is said to have
been reduced by two thirds. As terms of peace Columbus required annual
tribute in gold so great that no amount of labor in washing the sands could
furnish it. As a commutation of tribute and as a means of promoting the
conversion of the Indians there was soon inaugurated the encomienda system
which afterward spread throughout Spanish America. To each Spaniard
selected as an encomendero was allotted a certain quota of Indians bound to
cultivate land for his benefit and entitled to receive from him tutelage
in civilization and Christianity. The grantees, however, were not assigned
specified Indians but merely specified numbers of them, with power to seize
new ones to replace any who might die or run away. Thus the encomendero was
given little economic interest in preserving the lives and welfare of his

[Footnote 9: R.H. Major, _Select Letters of Columbus_, 2d. ed., 1890, p.

In the first phase of the system the Indians were secured in the right of
dwelling in their own villages under their own chiefs. But the encomenderos
complained that the aloofness of the natives hampered the work of
conversion and asked that a fuller and more intimate control be authorized.
This was promptly granted and as promptly abused. Such limitations as the
law still imposed upon encomendero power were made of no effect by the lack
of machinery for enforcement. The relationship in short, which the law
declared to be one of guardian and ward, became harsher than if it had been
that of master and slave. Most of the island natives were submissive in
disposition and weak in physique, and they were terribly driven at their
work in the fields, on the roads, and at the mines. With smallpox and other
pestilences added to their hardships, they died so fast that before 1510
Hispaniola was confronted with the prospect of the complete disappearance
of its laboring population.[10] Meanwhile the same regime was being carried
to Porto Rico, Jamaica and Cuba with similar consequences in its train.

[Footnote 10: E. g. Bourne, _Spain in America_ (New York, 1904); Wilhelm
Roscher, _The Spanish Colonial System_, Bourne ed. (New York, 1904); Konrad
Habler, "The Spanish Colonial Empire," in Helmolt, _History of the World_,
vol I.]

As long as mining remained the chief industry the islands failed to
prosper; and the reports of adversity so strongly checked the Spanish
impulse for adventure that special inducements by the government were
required to sustain any flow of emigration. But in 1512-1515 the
introduction of sugar-cane culture brought the beginning of a change in
the industrial situation. The few surviving gangs of Indians began to be
shifted from the mines to the fields, and a demand for a new labor supply
arose which could be met only from across the sea.

Apparently no negroes were brought to the islands before 1501. In that
year, however, a royal decree, while excluding Jews and Moors, authorized
the transportation of negroes born in Christian lands; and some of these
were doubtless carried to Hispaniola in the great fleet of Ovando, the new
governor, in 1502. Ovando's reports of this experiment were conflicting.
In the year following his arrival he advised that no more negroes be sent,
because of their propensity to run away and band with and corrupt the
Indians. But after another year had elapsed he requested that more negroes
be sent. In this interim the humane Isabella died and the more callous
Ferdinand acceded to full control. In consequence a prohibition of the
negro trade in 1504 was rescinded in 1505 and replaced by orders that the
bureau in charge of colonial trade promote the sending of negroes from
Spain in large parcels. For the next twelve years this policy was
maintained--the sending of Christian negroes was encouraged, while the
direct slave trade from Africa to America was prohibited. The number of
negroes who reached the islands under this regime is not ascertainable. It
was clearly almost negligible in comparison with the increasing demand.[11]

[Footnote 11: The chief authority upon the origin and growth of negro
slavery in the Spanish colonies is J.A. Saco, _Historia de la Esclavitud
de la Raza Africana en el Nuevo Mundo y en especial en los Paises
Americo-Hispanos_. (Barcelona, 1879.) This book supplements the same
author's _Historia de la Esclavitud desde los Tiempos remotos_ previously

The policy of excluding negroes fresh from Africa--"bozal negroes" the
Spaniards called them--was of course a product of the characteristic
resolution to keep the colonies free from all influences hostile to
Catholic orthodoxy. But whereas Jews, Mohammedans and Christian heretics
were considered as champions of rival faiths, the pagan blacks came
increasingly to be reckoned as having no religion and therefore as a mere
passive element ready for christianization. As early as 1510, in fact, the
Spanish crown relaxed its discrimination against pagans by ordering the
purchase of above a hundred negro slaves in the Lisbon market for dispatch
to Hispaniola. To quiet its religious scruples the government hit upon
the device of requiring the baptism of all pagan slaves upon their
disembarkation in the colonial ports.

The crown was clearly not prepared to withstand a campaign for supplies
direct from Africa, especially after the accession of the youth Charles I
in 1517. At that very time a clamor from the islands reached its climax.
Not only did many civil officials, voicing public opinion in their island
communities, urge that the supply of negro slaves be greatly increased as
a means of preventing industrial collapse, but a delegation of Jeronimite
friars and the famous Bartholomeo de las Casas, who had formerly been a
Cuban encomendero and was now a Dominican priest, appeared in Spain to
press the same or kindred causes. The Jeronimites, themselves concerned in
industrial enterprises, were mostly interested in the labor supply. But the
well-born and highly talented Las Casas, earnest and full of the milk
of human kindness, was moved entirely by humanitarian and religious
considerations. He pleaded primarily for the abolition of the encomienda
system and the establishment of a great Indian reservation under missionary
control, and he favored the increased transfer of Christian negroes from
Spain as a means of relieving the Indians from their terrible sufferings.
The lay spokesmen and the Jeronimites asked that provision be made for the
sending of thousands of negro slaves, preferably bozal negroes for the sake
of cheapness and plenty; and the supporters of this policy were able to
turn to their use the favorable impression which Las Casas was making, even
though his programme and theirs were different.[12] The outcome was that
while the settling of the encomienda problem was indefinitely postponed,
authorization was promptly given for a supply of bozal negroes.

[Footnote 12: Las Casas, _Historio de las Indias_ (Madrid, 1875, 1876);
Arthur Helps, _Life of Las Casas_ (London, 1873); Saco, _op. cit_., pp.

The crown here had an opportunity to get large revenues, of which it was in
much need, by letting the slave trade under contract or by levying taxes
upon it. The young king, however, freshly arrived from the Netherlands with
a crowd of Flemish favorites in his train, proceeded to issue gratuitously
a license for the trade to one of the Flemings at court, Laurent de
Gouvenot, known in Spain as Garrevod, the governor of Breza. This license
empowered the grantee and his assigns to ship from Guinea to the Spanish
islands four thousand slaves. All the historians until recently have placed
this grant in the year 1517 and have called it a contract (asiento); but
Georges Scelle has now discovered and printed the document itself which
bears the date August 18, 1518, and is clearly a license of grace bearing
none of the distinctive asiento features.[13] Garrevod, who wanted ready
cash rather than a trading privilege, at once divided his license into two
and sold them for 25,000 ducats to certain Genoese merchants domiciled at
Seville, who in turn split them up again and put them on the market where
they became an object of active speculation at rapidly rising prices. The
result was that when slaves finally reached the islands under Garrevod's
grant the prices demanded for them were so exorbitant that the purposes
of the original petitioners were in large measure defeated. Meanwhile the
king, in spite of the nominally exclusive character of the Garrevod grant,
issued various other licenses on a scale ranging from ten to four hundred
slaves each. For a decade the importations were small, however, and the
island clamor increased.

[Footnote 13: Georges Scelle, _Histoire Politique de la Traite Negriere aux
Indes de Castille: Contrats et Traites d'Asiento_ (Paris, 1906), I, 755.
Book I, chapter 2 of the same volume is an elaborate discussion of the
Garrevod grant.]

In 1528 a new exclusive grant was issued to two German courtiers at
Seville, Eynger and Sayller, empowering them to carry four thousand slaves
from Guinea to the Indies within the space of the following four years.
This differed from Garrevod's in that it required a payment of 20,000
ducats to the crown and restricted the price at which the slaves were to
be sold in the islands to forty ducats each. In so far it approached the
asientos of the full type which became the regular recourse of the Spanish
government in the following centuries; but it fell short of the ultimate
plan by failing to bind the grantees to the performance of their
undertaking and by failing to specify the grades and the proportion of the
sexes among the slaves to be delivered. In short the crown's regard was
still directed more to the enrichment of courtiers than to the promotion of
prosperity in the islands.

After the expiration of the Eynger and Sayller grant the king left the
control of the slave trade to the regular imperial administrative boards,
which, rejecting all asiento overtures for half a century, maintained a
policy of granting licenses for competitive trade in return for payments
of eight or ten ducats per head until 1560, and of thirty ducats or more
thereafter. At length, after the Spanish annexation of Portugal in 1580,
the government gradually reverted to monopoly grants, now however in the
definite form of asientos, in which by intent at least the authorities made
the public interest, with combined regard to the revenue and a guaranteed
labor supply, the primary consideration.[14] The high prices charged for
slaves, however, together with the burdensome restrictions constantly
maintained upon trade in general, steadily hampered the growth of Spanish
colonial industry. Furthermore the allurements of Mexico and Peru drained
the older colonies of virtually all their more vigorous white inhabitants,
in spite of severe penalties legally imposed upon emigration but never
effectively enforced.

[Footnote 14: Scelle, I, books 1-3.]

The agricultural regime in the islands was accordingly kept relatively
stagnant as long as Spain preserved her full West Indian domination. The
sugar industry, which by 1542 exported the staple to the amount of 110,000
arrobas of twenty-five pounds each, was standardized in plantations of two
types--the _trapiche_ whose cane was ground by ox power and whose labor
force was generally thirty or forty negroes (each reckoned as capable of
the labor of four Indians); and the _inqenio_, equipped with a water-power
mill and employing about a hundred slaves.[15] Occasional slave revolts
disturbed the Spanish islanders but never for long diminished their
eagerness for slave recruits. The slave laws were relatively mild, the
police administration extremely casual, and the plantation managements
easy-going. In short, after introducing slavery into the new world the
Spaniards maintained it in sluggish fashion, chiefly in the islands, as an
institution which peoples more vigorous industrially might borrow and adapt
to a more energetic plantation regime.

[Footnote 15: Saco, pp. 127, 128, 188; Oviedo, _Historia General de las
Indias_, book 4. chap. 8.]



At the request of a slaver's captain the government of Georgia issued in
1772 a certificate to a certain Fenda Lawrence reciting that she, "a free
black woman and heretofore a considerable trader in the river Gambia on the
coast of Africa, hath voluntarily come to be and remain for some time in
this province," and giving her permission to "pass and repass unmolested
within the said province on her lawfull and necessary occations."[1] This
instance is highly exceptional. The millions of African expatriates went
against their own wills, and their transporters looked upon the business
not as passenger traffic but as trade in goods. Earnings came from selling
in America the cargoes bought in Africa; the transportation was but an item
in the trade.

[Footnote 1: U.B. Phillips, _Plantation and Frontier Documents_, printed
also as vols. I and II of the _Documentary History of American Industrial
Society_ (Cleveland, O., 1909), II, 141, 142. This publication will be
cited hereafter as _Plantation and Frontier_.]

The business bulked so large in the world's commerce in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries that every important maritime community on the
Atlantic sought a share, generally with the sanction and often with the
active assistance of its respective sovereign. The preliminaries to the
commercial strife occurred in the Elizabethan age. French traders in gold
and ivory found the Portuguese police on the Guinea Coast to be negligible;
but poaching in the slave trade was a harder problem, for Spain held firm
control of her colonies which were then virtually the world's only slave

The test of this was made by Sir John Hawkins who at the beginning of his
career as a great English sea captain had informed himself in the Canary
Islands of the Afro-American opportunity awaiting exploitation. Backed by
certain English financiers, he set forth in 1562 with a hundred men in
three small ships, and after procuring in Sierra Leone, "partly by the
sword and partly by other means," above three hundred negroes he sailed to
Hispaniola where without hindrance from the authorities he exchanged them
for colonial produce. "And so, with prosperous success, and much gain to
himself and the aforesaid adventurers, he came home, and arrived in the
month of September, 1563."[2] Next year with 170 men in four ships Hawkins
again captured as many Sierra Leone natives as he could carry, and
proceeded to peddle them in the Spanish islands. When the authorities
interfered he coerced them by show of arms and seizure of hostages, and
when the planters demurred at his prices he brought them to terms through a
mixture of diplomacy and intimidation. After many adventures by the way he
reached home, as the chronicler concludes, "God be thanked! in safety: with
the loss of twenty persons in all the voyage; as with great profit to the
venturers in the said voyage, so also to the whole realm, in bringing
home both gold, silver, pearls, and other jewels in great store. His name
therefore be praised for evermore! Amen." Before two years more had passed
Hawkins put forth for a third voyage, this time with six ships, two of them
among the largest then afloat. The cargo of slaves, procured by aiding a
Guinea tribe in an attack upon its neighbor, had been duly sold in the
Indies when dearth of supplies and stress of weather drove the fleet into
the Mexican port of San Juan de Ulloa. There a Spanish fleet of thirteen
ships attacked the intruders, capturing their treasure ship and three of
her consorts. Only the _Minion_ under Hawkins and the bark _Judith_ under
the young Francis Drake escaped to carry the harrowing tale to England. One
result of the episode was that it filled Hawkins and Drake with desire for
revenge on Spain, which was wreaked in due time but in European waters.
Another consequence was a discouragement of English slave trading for
nearly a century to follow.

[Footnote 2: Hakluyt, _Voyages_, ed. 1589. This and the accounts of
Hawkins' later exploits in the same line are reprinted with a valuable
introduction in C.R. Beazley, ed., _Voyages and Travels_ (New York, 1903),
I, 29-126.]

The defeat of the Armada in 1588 led the world to suspect the decline of
Spain's maritime power, but only in the lapse of decades did the suspicion
of her helplessness become a certainty. Meantime Portugal was for sixty
years an appanage of the Spanish crown, while the Netherlands were at their
heroic labor for independence. Thus when the Dutch came to prevail at sea
in the early seventeenth century the Portuguese posts in Guinea fell their
prey, and in 1621 the Dutch West India Company was chartered to take them
over. Closely identified with the Dutch government, this company not
only founded the colony of New Netherland and endeavored to foster the
employment of negro slaves there, but in 1634 it seized the Spanish island
of Curacao near the Venezuelan coast and made it a basis for smuggling
slaves into the Spanish dominions. And now the English, the French and the
Danes began to give systematic attention to the African and West Indian
opportunities, whether in the form of buccaneering, slave trading or

The revolt of Portugal in 1640 brought a turning point. For a
quarter-century thereafter the Spanish government, regarding the Portuguese
as rebels, suspended all trade relations with them, the asiento included.
But the trade alternatives remaining were all distasteful to Spain. The
English were heretics; the Dutch were both heretics and rebels; the French
and the Danes were too weak at sea to handle the great slave trading
contract with security; and Spain had no means of her own for large scale
commerce. The upshot was that the carriage of slaves to the Spanish
colonies was wholly interdicted during the two middle decades of the
century. But this gave the smugglers their highest opportunity. The Spanish
colonial police collapsed under the pressure of the public demand for
slaves, and illicit trading became so general and open as to be pseudo
legitimate. Such a boom came as was never felt before under Protestant
flags in tropical waters. The French, in spite of great exertions, were
not yet able to rival the Dutch and English. These in fact had such an
ascendency that when in 1663 Spain revived the asiento by a contract with
two Genoese, the contractors must needs procure their slaves by arrangement
with Dutch and English who delivered them at Curacao and Jamaica. Soon
after this contract expired the asiento itself was converted from an item
of Spanish internal policy into a shuttlecock of international politics. It
became in fact the badge of maritime supremacy, possessed now by the Dutch,
now by the French in the greatest years of Louis XIV, and finally by the
English as a trophy in the treaty of Utrecht.

By this time, however, the Spanish dominions were losing their primacy
as slave markets. Jamaica, Barbados and other Windward Islands under the
English; Hayti, Martinique and Guadeloupe under the French, and Guiana
under the Dutch were all more or less thriving as plantation colonies,
while Brazil, Virginia, Maryland and the newly founded Carolina were
beginning to demonstrate that slave labor had an effective calling without
as well as within the Caribbean latitudes. The closing decades of the
seventeenth century were introducing the heyday of the slave trade, and the
English were preparing for their final ascendency therein.

In West African waters in that century no international law prevailed but
that of might. Hence the impulse of any new country to enter the Guinea
trade led to the project of a chartered monopoly company; for without
the resources of share capital sufficient strength could not be had, and
without the monopoly privilege the necessary shares could not be sold. The
first English company of moment, chartered in 1618, confined its trade to
gold and other produce. Richard Jobson while in its service on the Gambia
was offered some slaves by a native trader. "I made answer," Jobson
relates, "we were a people who did not deal in any such commodities;
neither did we buy or sell one another, or any that had our own shapes; at
which he seemed to marvel much, and told us it was the only merchandize
they carried down, and that they were sold to white men, who earnestly
desired them. We answered, they were another kind of people, different from
us; but for our part, if they had no other commodities, we would return
again."[3] This company speedily ending its life, was followed by another
in 1631 with a similarly short career; and in 1651 the African privilege
was granted for a time to the East India Company.

[Footnote 3: Richard Jobson, _The Golden Trade_ (London 1623,), pp. 29, 87,
quoted in James Bandinel, _Some Account of the Trade in Slaves from Africa_
(London, 1842), p. 43.]

Under Charles II activities were resumed vigorously by a company chartered
in 1662; but this promptly fell into such conflict with the Dutch that its
capital of L122,000 vanished. In a drastic reorganization its affairs were
taken over by a new corporation, the Royal African Company, chartered in
1672 with the Duke of York at its head and vested in its turn with monopoly
rights under the English flag from Sallee on the Moroccan coast to the Cape
of Good Hope.[4] For two decades this company prospered greatly, selling
some two thousand slaves a year in Jamaica alone, and paying large cash
dividends on its L100,000 capital and then a stock dividend of 300
per cent. But now came reverses through European war and through the
competition of English and Yankee private traders who shipped slaves
legitimately from Madagascar and illicitly from Guinea. Now came also a
clamor from the colonies, where the company was never popular, and from
England also where oppression and abuses were charged against it by
would-be free traders. After a parliamentary investigation an act of 1697
restricted the monopoly by empowering separate traders to traffic in Guinea
upon paying to the company for the maintenance of its forts ten per cent,
on the value of the cargoes they carried thither and a percentage on
certain minor exports carried thence.

[Footnote 4: The financial career of the company is described by W.R.
Scott, "The Constitution and Finances of the Royal African Company of
England till 1720," in the _American Historical Review_, VIII. 241-259.]

The company soon fell upon still more evil times, and met them by evil
practices. To increase its capital it offered new stock for sale at
reduced prices and borrowed money for dividends in order to encourage
subscriptions. The separate traders meanwhile were winning nearly all its
trade. In 1709-1710, for example, forty-four of their vessels made voyages
as compared with but three ships of the company, and Royal African stock
sold as low as 2-1/8 on the L100. A reorganization in 1712 however added
largely to the company's funds, and the treaty of Utrecht brought it new
prosperity. In 1730 at length Parliament relieved the separate traders
of all dues, substituting a public grant of L10,000 a year toward the
maintenance of the company's forts. For twenty years more the company,
managed in the early thirties by James Oglethorpe, kept up the unequal
contest until 1751 when it was dissolved.

The company regime under the several flags was particularly dominant on the
coasts most esteemed in the seventeenth century; and in that century they
reached a comity of their own on the basis of live and let live. The French
were secured in the Senegal sphere of influence and the English on the
Gambia, while on the Gold Coast the Dutch and English divided the trade
between them. Here the two headquarters were in forts lying within sight
of each other: El Mina of the Dutch, and Cape Coast Castle of the English.
Each was commanded by a governor and garrisoned by a score or two of
soldiers; and each with its outlying factories had a staff of perhaps a
dozen factors, as many sub-factors, twice as many assistants, and a few
bookkeepers and auditors, as well as a corps of white artisans and an
abundance of native interpreters, boatmen, carriers and domestic servants.
The Dutch and English stations alternated in a series east and west, often
standing no further than a cannon-shot apart. Here and there one of them
had acquired a slight domination which the other respected; but in the case
of the Coromantees (or Fantyns) William Bosman, a Dutch company factor
about 1700, wrote that both companies had "equal power, that is none at
all. For when these people are inclined to it they shut up the passes so
close that not one merchant can come from the inland country to trade with
us; and sometimes, not content with this, they prevent the bringing of
provisions to us till we have made peace with them." The tribe was in fact
able to exact heavy tribute from both companies; and to stretch the treaty
engagements at will to its own advantage.[5] Further eastward, on the
densely populated Slave Coast, the factories were few and the trade
virtually open to all comers. Here, as was common throughout Upper Guinea,
the traits and the trading practices of adjacent tribes were likely to
be in sharp contrast. The Popo (or Paw Paw) people, for example, were so
notorious for cheating and thieving that few traders would go thither
unless prepared to carry things with a strong hand. The Portuguese alone
bore their grievances without retaliation, Bosman said, because their goods
were too poor to find markets elsewhere.[6]But Fidah (Whydah), next door,
was in Bosman's esteem the most agreeable of all places to trade in. The
people were honest and polite, and the red-tape requirements definite and
reasonable. A ship captain after paying for a license and buying the king's
private stock of slaves at somewhat above the market price would have the
news of his arrival spread afar, and at a given time the trade would be
opened with prices fixed in advance and all the available slaves herded
in an open field. There the captain or factor, with the aid of a surgeon,
would select the young and healthy, who if the purchaser were the Dutch
company were promptly branded to prevent their being confused in the crowd
before being carried on shipboard. The Whydahs were so industrious in the
trade, with such far reaching interior connections, that they could deliver
a thousand slaves each month.[7]

[Footnote 5: Bosman's _Guinea_ (London, 1705), reprinted in Pinkerton's
_Voyages_, XVI, 363.]

[Footnote 6: _Ibid_., XVI, 474-476.]

[Footnote 7: _Ibid_., XVI, 489-491.]

Of the operations on the Gambia an intimate view may be had from the
journal of Francis Moore, a factor of the Royal African Company from 1730
to 1735.[8] Here the Jolofs on the north and the Mandingoes on the south
and west were divided into tribes or kingdoms fronting from five
to twenty-five leagues on the river, while tributary villages of
Arabic-speaking Foulahs were scattered among them. In addition there was
a small independent population of mixed breed, with very slight European
infusion but styling themselves Portuguese and using a "bastard language"
known locally as Creole. Many of these last were busy in the slave trade.
The Royal African headquarters, with a garrison of thirty men, were on an
island in the river some thirty miles from its mouth, while its trading
stations dotted the shores for many leagues upstream, for no native king
was content without a factory near his "palace." The slaves bought were
partly of local origin but were mostly brought from long distances inland.
These came generally in strings or coffles of thirty or forty, tied with
leather thongs about their necks and laden with burdens of ivory and corn
on their heads. Mungo Park when exploring the hinterland of this coast
in 1795-1797, traveling incidentally with a slave coffle on part of
his journey, estimated that in the Niger Valley generally the slaves
outnumbered the free by three to one.[9] But as Moore observed, the
domestic slaves were rarely sold in the trade, mainly for fear it would
cause their fellows to run away. When captured by their master's enemies
however, they were likely to be sent to the coast, for they were seldom

[Footnote 8: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_ (London, 1738).]

[Footnote 9: Mungo Park, _Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa_ (4th
ed., London, 1800), pp. 287, 428.]

The diverse goods bartered for slaves were rated by units of value which
varied in the several trade centers. On the Gold Coast it was a certain
length of cowrie shells on a string; at Loango it was a "piece" which had
the value of a common gun or of twenty pounds of iron; at Kakongo it was
twelve- or fifteen-yard lengths of cotton cloth called "goods";[10] while
on the Gambia it was a bar of iron, apparently about forty pounds in
weight. But in the Gambia trade as Moore described it the unit or "bar"
in rum, cloth and most other things became depreciated until in some
commodities it was not above a shilling's value in English money. Iron
itself, on the other hand, and crystal beads, brass pans and spreadeagle
dollars appreciated in comparison. These accordingly became distinguished
as the "heads of goods," and the inclusion of three or four units of them
was required in the forty or fifty bars of miscellaneous goods making up
the price of a prime slave.[11] In previous years grown slaves alone had
brought standard prices; but in Moore's time a specially strong demand for
boys and girls in the markets of Cadiz and Lisbon had raised the prices of
these almost to a parity. All defects were of course discounted. Moore, for
example, in buying a slave with several teeth missing made the seller abate
a bar for each tooth. The company at one time forbade the purchase of
slaves from the self-styled Portuguese because they ran the prices up; but
the factors protested that these dealers would promptly carry their wares
to the separate traders, and the prohibition was at once withdrawn.

[Footnote 10: The Abbe Proyart, _History of Loango_ (1776), in Pinkerton's
_Voyages_, XVI, 584-587.]

[Footnote 11: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_, p.45.]

The company and the separate traders faced different problems. The latter
were less easily able to adjust their merchandise to the market. A Rhode
Island captain, for instance, wrote his owners from Anamabo in 1736, "heare
is 7 sails of us rume men, that we are ready to devour one another, for our
case is desprit"; while four years afterward another wrote after trading
at the same port, "I have repented a hundred times ye lying in of them dry
goods", which he had carried in place of the customary rum.[12] Again, a
veteran Rhode Islander wrote from Anamabo in 1752, "on the whole I never
had so much trouble in all my voiges", and particularized as follows: "I
have Gott on bord 61 Slaves and upards of thirty ounces of Goold, and have
Gott 13 or 14 hhds of Rum yet Left on bord, and God noes when I shall Gett
Clear of it ye trade is so very Dull it is actuly a noof to make a man
Creasey my Cheef mate after making foor or five Trips in the boat was taken
Sick and Remains very bad yett then I sent Mr. Taylor, and he got not well,
and three more of my men has [been] sick.... I should be Glad I coold Com
Rite home with my slaves, for my vesiel will not Last to proceed farr
we can see Day Lite al Roond her bow under Deck.... heare Lyes Captains
hamlet, James, Jepson, Carpenter, Butler, Lindsay; Gardner is Due; Ferguson
has Gone to Leward all these is Rum ships."[13]

[Footnote 12: _American Historical Record_, I (1872), 314, 317.]

[Footnote 13: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, LXIX, 59,

The separate traders also had more frequent quarrels with the natives.
In 1732 a Yankee captain was killed in a trade dispute and his crew set
adrift. Soon afterward certain Jolofs took another ship's officers captive
and required the value of twenty slaves as ransom. And in 1733 the natives
at Yamyamacunda, up the Gambia, sought revenge upon Captain Samuel Moore
for having paid them in pewter dollars on his previous voyage, and were
quieted through the good offices of a company factor.[14] The company
suffered far less from native disorders, for a threat of removing its
factory would bring any chief to terms. In 1731, however, the king of
Barsally brought a troop of his kinsmen and subjects to the Joar factory
where Moore was in charge, got drunk, seized the keys and rifled the
stores.[15] But the company's chief trouble was with its own factors.
The climate and conditions were so trying that illness was frequent and
insanity and suicide occasional; and the isolation encouraged fraudulent
practices. It was usually impossible to tell the false from the true in the
reports of the loss of goods by fire and flood, theft and rapine, mildew
and white ants, or the loss of slaves by death or mutiny. The expense
of the salary list, ship hire, provisions and merchandise was heavy and
continuous, while the returns were precarious to a degree. Not often did
such great wars occur as the Dahomey invasion of the Whidah country in
1726[16] and the general fighting of the Gambia peoples in 1733-1734[17] to
glut the outward bound ships with slave cargoes. As a rule the company's
advantage of steady markets and friendly native relations appears to have
been more than offset by the freedom of the separate traders from fixed
charges and the necessity of dependence upon lazy and unfaithful employees.

[Footnote 14: Moore, pp. 112, 164, 182.]

[Footnote 15: _Ibid_., p. 82.]

[Footnote 16: William Snelgrave, _A New Account of Some Parts of Guinea and
the Slave Trade_ (London, 1734), pp. 8-32.]

[Footnote 17: Moore, p. 157.]

Instead of jogging along the coast, as many had been accustomed to do, and
casting anchor here and there upon sighting signal smokes raised by natives
who had slaves to sell,[18] the separate traders began before the close
of the colonial period to get their slaves from white factors at the
"castles," which were then a relic from the company regime. So advantageous
was this that in 1772 a Newport brig owned by Colonel Wanton cleared L500
on her voyage, and next year the sloop _Adventure_, also of Newport,
Christopher and George Champlin owners, made such speedy trade that after
losing by death one slave out of the ninety-five in her cargo she landed
the remainder in prime order at Barbados and sold them immediately in one
lot at L35 per head.[19]

[Footnote 18: Snelgrave, introduction.]

[Footnote 19: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, LXIX, 398,

In Lower Guinea the Portuguese held an advantage, partly through the
influence of the Catholic priests. The Capuchin missionary Merolla, for
example, relates that while he was in service at the mouth of the Congo in
1685 word came that the college of cardinals had commanded the missionaries
in Africa to combat the slave trade. Promptly deciding this to be a
hopeless project, Merolla and his colleagues compromised with their
instructions by attempting to restrict the trade to ships of Catholic
nations and to the Dutch who were then supplying Spain under the asiento.
No sooner had the chiefs in the district agreed to this than a Dutch
trading captain set things awry by spreading Protestant doctrine among the
natives, declaring baptism to be the only sacrament required for salvation,
and confession to be superfluous. The priests then put all the Dutch under
the ban, but the natives raised a tumult saying that the Portuguese, the
only Catholic traders available, not only paid low prices in poor goods but
also aspired to a political domination. The crisis was relieved by a timely
plague of small-pox which the priests declared and the natives agreed was a
divinely sent punishment for their contumacy,--and for the time at least,
the exclusion of heretical traders was made effective.[20] The English
appear never to have excelled the Portuguese on the Congo and southward
except perhaps about the close of the eighteenth century.

[Footnote 20: Jerom Merolla da Sorrente, _Voyage to Congo_ (translated from
the Italian), in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 253-260.]

The markets most frequented by the English and American separate traders
lay on the great middle stretches of the coast--Sierra Leone, the Grain
Coast (Liberia), the Ivory, Gold and Slave Coasts, the Oil Rivers as the
Niger Delta was then called, Cameroon, Gaboon and Loango. The swarm of
their ships was particularly great in the Gulf of Guinea upon whose shores
the vast fan-shaped hinterland poured its exiles along converging lines.

The coffles came from distances ranging to a thousand miles or more, on
rivers and paths whose shore ends the European traders could see but
did not find inviting. These paths, always of single-file narrowness,
tortuously winding to avoid fallen trees and bad ground, never straightened
even when obstructions had rotted and gone, branching and crossing in
endless network, penetrating jungles and high-grass prairies, passing
villages that were and villages that had been, skirting the lairs of savage
beasts and the haunts of cannibal men, beset with drought and famine, storm
and flood, were threaded only by negroes, bearing arms or bearing burdens.
Many of the slaves fell exhausted on the paths and were cut out of the
coffles to die. The survivors were sorted by the purchasers on the coast
into the fit and the unfit, the latter to live in local slavery or to meet
either violent or lingering deaths, the former to be taken shackled on
board the strange vessels of the strange white men and carried to an
unknown fate. The only consolations were that the future could hardly be
worse than the recent past, that misery had plenty of company, and that
things were interesting by the way. The combination of resignation and
curiosity was most helpful.

It was reassuring to these victims to see an occasional American negro
serving in the crew of a slaver and to know that a few specially favored
tribesmen had returned home with vivid stories from across the sea. On the
Gambia for example there was Job Ben Solomon who during a brief slavery
in Maryland attracted James Oglethorpe's attention by a letter written in
Arabic, was bought from his master, carried to England, presented at court,
loaded with gifts and sent home as a freeman in 1734 in a Royal African
ship with credentials requiring the governor and factors to show him every
respect. Thereafter, a celebrity on the river, he spread among his fellow
Foulahs and the neighboring Jolofs and Mandingoes his cordial praises of
the English nation.[21] And on the Gold Coast there was Amissa to testify
to British justice, for he had shipped as a hired sailor on a Liverpool
slaver in 1774, had been kidnapped by his employer and sold as a slave in
Jamaica, but had been redeemed by the king of Anamaboe and brought home
with an award by Lord Mansfield's court in London of L500 damages collected
from the slaving captain who had wronged him.[22]

The bursting of the South Sea bubble in 1720 shifted the bulk of the
separate trading from London to the rival city of Bristol. But the removal
of the duties in 1730 brought the previously unimportant port of Liverpool
into the field with such vigor that ere long she had the larger half of
all the English slave trade. Her merchants prospered by their necessary
parsimony. The wages they paid were the lowest, and the commissions and
extra allowances they gave in their early years were nil.[23] By 1753 her
ships in the slave traffic numbered eighty-seven, totaling about eight
thousand tons burthen and rated to carry some twenty-five thousand slaves.
Eight of these vessels were trading on the Gambia, thirty-eight on the Gold
and Slave Coasts, five at Benin, three at New Calabar, twelve at Bonny,
eleven at Old Calabar, and ten in Angola.[24] For the year 1771 the number
of slavers bound from Liverpool was reported at one hundred and seven with
a capacity of 29,250 negroes, while fifty-eight went from London rated
to carry 8,136, twenty-five from Bristol to carry 8,810, and five from
Lancaster with room for 950. Of this total of 195 ships 43 traded in
Senegambia, 29 on the Gold Coast, 56 on the Slave Coast, 63 in the bights
of Benin and Biafra, and 4 in Angola. In addition there were sixty or
seventy slavers from North America and the West Indies, and these were
yearly increasing.[25] By 1801 the Liverpool ships had increased to 150,
with capacity for 52,557 slaves according to the reduced rating of five
slaves to three tons of burthen as required by the parliamentary act of
1788. About half of these traded in the Gulf of Guinea, and half in the
ports of Angola.[26] The trade in American vessels, particularly those of
New England, was also large. The career of the town of Newport in fact was
a small scale replied of Liverpool's. But acceptable statistics of the
American ships are lacking.

[Footnote 21: Francis Moore, _Travels in Africa_, pp. 69, 202-203.]

[Footnote 22: Gomer Williams, _History of the Liverpool Privateers, with an
Account of the Liverpool Slave Trade_ (London, 1897), pp. 563, 564.]

[Footnote 23: _Ibid_., p. 471, quoting _A General and Descriptive History
of Liverpool_ (1795).]

[Footnote 24: _Ibid_., p. 472 and appendix 7.]

[Footnote 25: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), p. 492

[Footnote 26: Corner Williams, Appendix 13.]

The ship captains in addition to their salaries generally received
commissions of "4 in 104," on the gross sales, and also had the privilege
of buying, transporting and selling specified numbers of slaves on their
private account. When surgeons were carried they also were allowed
commissions and privileges at a smaller rate, and "privileges" were often
allowed the mates likewise. The captains generally carried more or less
definite instructions. Ambrose Lace, for example, master of the Liverpool
ship _Marquis of Granby_ bound in 1762 for Old Calabar, was ordered to
combine with any other ships on the river to keep down rates, to buy
550 young and healthy slaves and such ivory as his surplus cargo would
purchase, and to guard against fire, fever and attack. When laden he was
to carry the slaves to agents in the West Indies, and thence bring home
according to opportunity sugar, cotton, coffee, pimento, mahogany and rum,
and the balance of the slave cargo proceeds in bills of exchange.[27]
Simeon Potter, master of a Rhode Island slaver about the same time, was
instructed by his owners: "Make yr Cheaf Trade with The Blacks and little
or none with the white people if possible to be avoided. Worter yr Rum as
much as possible and sell as much by the short mesuer as you can." And
again: "Order them in the Bots to worter thear Rum, as the proof will Rise
by the Rum Standing in ye Son."[28] As to the care of the slave cargo a
Massachusetts captain was instructed in 1785 as follows: "No people require
more kind and tender treatment: to exhilarate their spirits than the
Africans; and while on the one hand you are attentive to this, remember
that on the other hand too much circumspection cannot be observed by
yourself and people to prevent their taking advantage of such treatment
by insurrection, etc. When you consider that on the health of your slaves
almost your whole voyage depends--for all other risques but mortality,
seizures and bad debts the underwriters are accountable for--you will
therefore particularly attend to smoking your vessel, washing her with
vinegar, to the clarifying your water with lime or brimstone, and to
cleanliness among your own people as well as among the slaves."[29]

[Footnote 27: Ibid., pp. 486-489.]

[Footnote 28: W.B. Weeden, _Economic and Social History of New England_
(Boston [1890]), II, 465.]

[Footnote 29: G.H. Moore, _Notes on the History of Slavery in
Massachusetts_ (New York, 1866), pp. 66, 67, citing J.O. Felt, _Annals of
Salem_, 2d ed., II, 289, 290.]

Ships were frequently delayed for many months on the pestilent coast, for
after buying their licenses in one kingdom and finding trade slack there
they could ill afford to sail for another on the uncertain chance of a more
speedy supply. Sometimes when weary of higgling the market, they tried
persuasion by force of arms; but in some instances as at Bonny, in
1757,[30] this resulted in the victory of the natives and the destruction
of the ships. In general the captains and their owners appreciated the
necessity of patience, expensive and even deadly as that might prove to be.

[Footnote 30: Gomer Williams, pp. 481, 482.]

The chiefs were eager to foster trade and cultivate good will, for it
brought them pompous trappings as well as useful goods. "Grandy King
George" of Old Calabar, for example, asked of his friend Captain Lace
a mirror six feet square, an arm chair "for my salf to sat in," a gold
mounted cane, a red and a blue coat with gold lace, a case of razors,
pewter plates, brass flagons, knives and forks, bullet and cannon-ball
molds, and sailcloth for his canoes, along with many other things for use
in trade.[31]

[Footnote 31: _Ibid_., pp. 545-547.]

The typical New England ship for the slave trade was a sloop, schooner or
barkentine of about fifty tons burthen, which when engaged in ordinary
freighting would have but a single deck. For a slaving voyage a second
flooring was laid some three feet below the regular deck, the space between
forming the slave quarters. Such a vessel was handled by a captain, two
mates, and from three to six men and boys. It is curious that a vessel of
this type, with capacity in the hold for from 100 to 120 hogsheads of rum
was reckoned by the Rhode Islanders to be "full bigg for dispatch,"[32]
while among the Liverpool slave traders such a ship when offered for
sale could not find a purchaser.[33] The reason seems to have been that
dry-goods and sundries required much more cargo space for the same value
than did rum.

[Footnote 32: Massachusetts Historical Society, _Collections_, LXIX, 524.]

[Footnote 33: _Ibid_., 500.]

The English vessels were generally twice as great of burthen and with twice
the height in their 'tween decks. But this did not mean that the slaves
could stand erect in their quarters except along the center line; for when
full cargoes were expected platforms of six or eight feet in width were
laid on each side, halving the 'tween deck height and nearly doubling the
floor space on which the slaves were to be stowed. Whatever the size of the
ship, it loaded slaves if it could get them to the limit of its capacity.
Bosnian tersely said, "they lie as close together as it is possible to be
crowded."[34] The women's room was divided from the men's by a bulkhead,
and in time of need the captain's cabin might be converted into a hospital.

[Footnote 34: Bosnian's _Guinea_, in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 490.]

While the ship was taking on slaves and African provisions and water the
negroes were generally kept in a temporary stockade on deck for the sake
of fresh air. But on departure for the "middle passage," as the trip to
America was called by reason of its being the second leg of the ship's
triangular voyage in the trade, the slaves were kept below at night and in
foul weather, and were allowed above only in daylight for food, air and
exercise while the crew and some of the slaves cleaned the quarters and
swabbed the floors with vinegar as a disinfectant. The negro men were
usually kept shackled for the first part of the passage until the chances
of mutiny and return to Africa dwindled and the captain's fears gave place
to confidence. On various occasions when attacks of privateers were to be
repelled weapons were issued and used by the slaves in loyal defense of
the vessel.[35] Systematic villainy in the handling of the human cargo
was perhaps not so characteristic in this trade as in the transport of
poverty-stricken white emigrants. Henry Laurens, after withdrawing from
African factorage at Charleston because of the barbarities inflicted by
some of the participants in the trade, wrote in 1768: "Yet I never saw an
instance of cruelty in ten or twelve years' experience in that branch equal
to the cruelty exercised upon those poor Irish.... Self interest prompted
the baptized heathen to take some care of their wretched slaves for a
market, but no other care was taken of those poor Protestant Christians
from Ireland but to deliver as many as possible alive on shoar upon the
cheapest terms, no matter how they fared upon the voyage nor in what
condition they were landed."[36]

[Footnote 35: _E. g_., Gomer Williams, pp. 560, 561.]

[Footnote 36: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_ (New York, 1915), pp.
67, 68. For the tragic sufferings of an English convict shipment in 1768
see _Plantation and Frontier_, I, 372-373]

William Snelgrave, long a ship captain in the trade, relates that he was
accustomed when he had taken slaves on board to acquaint them through his
interpreter that they were destined to till the ground in America and not
to be eaten; that if any person on board abused them they were to complain
to the interpreter and the captain would give them redress, but if they
struck one of the crew or made any disturbance they must expect to be
severely punished. Snelgrave nevertheless had experience of three mutinies
in his career; and Coromantees figured so prominently in these that he
never felt secure when men of that stock were in his vessel, for, he said,
"I knew many of these Cormantine negroes despised punishment and even death
itself." In one case when a Coromantee had brained a sentry he was notified
by Snelgrave that he was to die in the sight of his fellows at the end of
an hour's time. "He answered, 'He must confess it was a rash action in him
to kill him; but he desired me to consider that if I put him to death I
should lose all the money I had paid for him.'" When the captain professed
himself unmoved by this argument the negro spent his last moments assuring
his fellows that his life was safe.[37]

[Footnote 37: Snelgrave, _Guinea and the Slave Trade_ (London, 1734), pp.
162-185. Snelgrave's book also contains vivid accounts of tribal wars,
human sacrifices, traders' negotiations and pirate captures on the Grain
and Slave Coasts.]

The discomfort in the densely packed quarters of the slave ships may be
imagined by any who have sailed on tropic seas. With seasickness added it
was wretched; when dysentery prevailed it became frightful; if water or
food ran short the suffering was almost or quite beyond endurance; and in
epidemics of scurvy, small-pox or ophthalmia the misery reached the limit
of human experience. The average voyage however was rapid and smooth
by virtue of the steadily blowing trade winds, the food if coarse was
generally plenteous and wholesome, and the sanitation fairly adequate. In
a word, under stern and often brutal discipline, and with the poorest
accommodations, the slaves encountered the then customary dangers and
hardships of the sea.[38]

[Footnote 38: Voluminous testimony in regard to conditions on the middle
passage was published by Parliament and the Privy Council in 1789-1791.
Summaries from it may be found in T.F. Buxton, _The African Slave Trade and
the Remedy_ (London, 1840), part I, chap. 2; and in W.O. Blake, _History of
Slavery and the Slave Trade_ (Columbus, Ohio, 1859), chaps, 9, 10.]

Among the disastrous voyages an example was that of the Dutch West India
Company's ship _St. John_ in 1659. After buying slaves at Bonny in April
and May she beat about the coast in search of provisions but found barely
enough for daily consumption until at the middle of August on the island of
Amebo she was able to buy hogs, beans, cocoanuts and oranges. Meanwhile bad
food had brought dysentery, the surgeon, the cooper and a sailor had died,
and the slave cargo was daily diminishing. Five weeks of sailing then
carried the ship across the Atlantic, where she put into Tobago to refill
her leaking water casks. Sailing thence she struck a reef near her
destination at Curacao and was abandoned by her officers and crew. Finally
a sloop sent by the Curacao governor to remove the surviving slaves was
captured by a privateer with them on board. Of the 195 negroes comprising
the cargo on June 30, from one to five died nearly every day, and one
leaped overboard to his death. At the end of the record on October 29 the
slave loss had reached 110, with the mortality rate nearly twice as high
among the men as among the women.[39] About the same time, on the other
hand, Captain John Newton of Liverpool, who afterwards turned preacher,
made a voyage without losing a sailor or a slave.[40] The mortality on the
average ship may be roughly conjectured from the available data at eight or
ten per cent.

[Footnote 39: E.B. O'Callaghan ed., _Voyages of the Slavers St. John and
Arms of Amsterdam_ (Albany, N.Y., 1867), pp. 1-13.]

[Footnote 40: Corner Williams, p. 515.]

Details of characteristic outfit, cargo, and expectations in the New
England branch of trade may be had from an estimate made in 1752 for a
projected voyage.[41] A sloop of sixty tons, valued at L300 sterling, was
to be overhauled and refitted, armed, furnished with handcuffs, medicines
and miscellaneous chandlery at a cost of L65, and provisioned for L50 more.
Its officers and crew, seven hands all told, were to draw aggregate wages
of L10 per month for an estimated period of one year. Laden with eight
thousand gallons of rum at 1_s. 8_d_. per gallon and with forty-five
barrels, tierces and hogsheads of bread, flour, beef, pork, tar, tobacco,
tallow and sugar--all at an estimated cost of L775--it was to sail for the
Gold Coast. There, after paying the local charges from the cargo, some
35 slave men were to be bought at 100 gallons per head, 15 women at 85
gallons, and 15 boys and girls at 65 gallons; and the residue of the rum
and miscellaneous cargo was expected to bring some seventy ounces of gold
in exchange as well as to procure food supplies for the westward voyage.
Recrossing the Atlantic, with an estimated death loss of a man, a woman and
two children, the surviving slaves were to be sold in Jamaica at about L21,
L18, and L14 for the respective classes. Of these proceeds about one-third
was to be spent for a cargo of 105 hogsheads of molasses at 8_d_. per
gallon, and the rest of the money remitted to London, whither the gold dust
was also to be sent. The molasses upon reaching Newport was expected to
bring twice as much as it had cost in the tropics. After deducting factor's
commissions of from 2-1/2 to 5 per cent. on all sales and purchases, and of
"4 in 104" on the slave sales as the captain's allowance, after providing
for insurance at four per cent. on ship and cargo for each leg of the
voyage, and for leakage of ten per cent. of the rum and five per cent. of
the molasses, and after charging off the whole cost of the ship's outfit
and one-third of her original value, there remained the sum of L357, 8s.
2d. as the expected profits of the voyage.

[Footnote 41: "An estimate of a voyage from Rhode Island to the Coast of
Guinea and from thence to Jamaica and so back to Rhode Island for a sloop
of 60 Tons." The authorities of Yale University, which possesses the
manuscript, have kindly permitted the publication of these data. The
estimates in Rhode Island and Jamaica currencies, which were then
depreciated, as stated in the document, to twelve for one and seven for
five sterling respectively, are here changed into their approximate
sterling equivalents.]

As to the gross volume of the trade, there are few statistics. As early as
1734 one of the captains engaged in it estimated that a maximum of seventy
thousand slaves a year had already been attained.[42] For the next half
century and more each passing year probably saw between fifty thousand and
a hundred thousand shipped. The total transportation from first to last may
well have numbered more than five million souls. Prior to the nineteenth
century far more negro than white colonists crossed the seas, though less
than one tenth of all the blacks brought to the western world appear to
have been landed on the North American continent. Indeed, a statistician
has reckoned, though not convincingly, that in the whole period before 1810
these did not exceed 385,500[43]

[Footnote 42: Snelgrave, _Guinea and the Slave Trade_, p. 159.]

[Footnote 43: H.C. Carey, _The Slave Trade, Domestic and Foreign_
(Philadelphia, 1853), chap. 3.]

In selling the slave cargoes in colonial ports the traders of course wanted
minimum delay and maximum prices. But as a rule quickness and high returns
were not mutually compatible. The Royal African Company tended to lay chief
stress upon promptness of sale. Thus at the end of 1672 it announced that
if persons would contract to receive whole cargoes upon their arrival and
to accept all slaves between twelve and forty years of age who were able to
go over the ship's side unaided they would be supplied at the rate of
L15 per head in Barbados, L16 in Nevis, L17 in Jamaica, and L18 in
Virginia.[44] The colonists were for a time disposed to accept this
arrangement where they could. For example Charles Calvert, governor of
Maryland, had already written Lord Baltimore in 1664: "I have endeavored to
see if I could find as many responsible men that would engage to take 100
or 200 neigros every year from the Royall Company at that rate mentioned
in your lordship's letter; but I find that we are nott men of estates good
enough to undertake such a buisnesse, but could wish we were for we are
naturally inclined to love neigros if our purses could endure it."[45] But
soon complaints arose that the slaves delivered on contract were of the
poorest quality, while the better grades were withheld for other means of
sale at higher prices. Quarrels also developed between the company on the
one hand and the colonists and their legislatures on the other over the
rating of colonial moneys and the obstructions placed by law about the
collection of debts; and the colonists proceeded to give all possible
encouragement to the separate traders, legal or illegal as their traffic
might be.[46]

[Footnote 44: E.D. Collins, "Studies in the Colonial Policy of England,
1672-1680," in the American Historical Association _Report_ for 1901, I,

[Footnote 45: Maryland Historical Society _Fund Publications_ no. 28, p.

[Footnote 46: G.L. Beer, _The Old Colonial System_ (New York, 1912), part
I, vol. I, chap. 5.]

Most of the sales, in the later period at least, were without previous
contract. A practice often followed in the British West Indian ports was to
advertise that the cargo of a vessel just arrived would be sold on board at
an hour scheduled and at a uniform price announced in the notice. At the
time set there would occur a great scramble of planters and dealers to grab
the choicest slaves. A variant from this method was reported in 1670 from
Guadeloupe, where a cargo brought in by the French African company was
first sorted into grades of prime men, (_pieces d'Inde_), prime women, boys
and girls rated at two-thirds of prime, and children rated at one-half. To
each slave was attached a ticket bearing a number, while a corresponding
ticket was deposited in one of four boxes according to the grade. At prices
then announced for the several grades, the planters bought the privilege of
drawing tickets from the appropriate boxes and acquiring thereby title to
the slaves to which the numbers they drew were attached.[47]

[Footnote 47: Lucien Peytraud, _L'Esclavage aux Antilles Francaises avant
1789_ (Paris, 1897), pp. 122, 123.]

In the chief ports of the British continental colonies the maritime
transporters usually engaged merchants on shore to sell the slaves as
occasion permitted, whether by private sale or at auction. At Charleston
these merchants charged a ten per cent commission on slave sales, though
their factorage rate was but five per cent. on other sorts of merchandise;
and they had credits of one and two years for the remittance of the
proceeds.[48] The following advertisement, published at Charleston in 1785
jointly by Ball, Jennings and Company, and Smiths, DeSaussure and Darrell
is typical of the factors' announcements: "GOLD COAST NEGROES. On Thursday,
the 17th of March instant, will be exposed to public sale near the Exchange
(if not before disposed of by private contract) the remainder of the cargo
of negroes imported in the ship _Success_, Captain John Conner, consisting
chiefly of likely young boys and girls in good health, and having been
here through the winter may be considered in some degree seasoned to this
climate. The conditions of the sale will be credit to the first of January,
1786, on giving bond with approved security where required--the negroes not
to be delivered till the terms are complied with."[49] But in such colonies
as Virginia where there was no concentration of trade in ports, the ships
generally sailed from place to place peddling their slaves, with notice
published in advance when practicable. The diseased or otherwise unfit
negroes were sold for whatever price they would bring. In some of the ports
it appears that certain physicians made a practise of buying these to sell
the survivors at a profit upon their restoration to health.[50]

[Footnote 48: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, p. 75.]

[Footnote 49: _The Gazette of the State of South Carolina_, Mch. 10, 1785.]

[Footnote 50: C. C. Robin, _Voyages_ (Paris, 1806), II, 170.]

That by no means all the negroes took their enslavement grievously is
suggested by a traveler's note at Columbia, South Carolina, in 1806: "We
met ... a number of new negroes, some of whom had been in the country long
enough to talk intelligibly. Their likely looks induced us to enter into
a talk with them. One of them, a very bright, handsome youth of about
sixteen, could talk well. He told us the circumstances of his being caught
and enslaved, with as much composure as he would any common occurrence,
not seeming to think of the injustice of the thing nor to speak of it with
indignation.... He spoke of his master and his work as though all were
right, and seemed not to know he had a right to be anything but a

[Footnote 51: "Diary of Edward Hooker," in the American Historical
Association _Report_ for 1906, p. 882.]

In the principal importing colonies careful study was given to the
comparative qualities of the several African stocks. The consensus
of opinion in the premises may be gathered from several contemporary
publications, the chief ones of which were written in Jamaica.[52] The
Senegalese, who had a strong Arabic strain in their ancestry, were
considered the most intelligent of Africans and were especially esteemed
for domestic service, the handicrafts and responsible positions. "They are
good commanders over other negroes, having a high spirit and a tolerable
share of fidelity; but they are unfit for hard work; their bodies are not
robust nor their constitutions vigorous." The Mandingoes were reputed to be
especially gentle in demeanor but peculiarly prone to theft. They easily
sank under fatigue, but might be employed with advantage in the distillery
and the boiling house or as watchmen against fire and the depredations of
cattle. The Coromantees of the Gold Coast stand salient in all accounts as
hardy and stalwart of mind and body. Long calls them haughty, ferocious and
stubborn; Edwards relates examples of their Spartan fortitude; and it
was generally agreed that they were frequently instigators of slave
conspiracies and insurrections. Yet their spirit of loyalty made them the
most highly prized of servants by those who could call it forth. Of them
Christopher Codrington, governor of the Leeward Islands, wrote in 1701 to
the English Board of Trade: "The Corramantes are not only the best and
most faithful of our slaves, but are really all born heroes. There is a
differance between them and all other negroes beyond what 'tis possible
for your Lordships to conceive. There never was a raskal or coward of that
nation. Intrepid to the last degree, not a man of them but will stand to
be cut to pieces without a sigh or groan, grateful and obedient to a kind
master, but implacably revengeful when ill-treated. My father, who had
studied the genius and temper of all kinds of negroes forty-five years with
a very nice observation, would say, noe man deserved a Corramante that
would not treat him like a friend rather than a slave."[53]

[Footnote 52: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_ (London, 1774), II, 403,
404; Bryan Edwards, _History of the British Colonies in the West Indies_,
various editions, book IV, chap. 3; and "A Professional Planter,"
_Practical Rules for the Management and Medical Treatment of Negro Slaves
in the Sugar Colonies_ (London, 1803), pp. 39-48. The pertinent portion of
this last is reprinted in _Plantation and Frontier_, II, 127-133. For the
similar views of the French planters in the West Indies see Peytraud,
_L'Esclavage aux Antilles Francaises_, pp. 87-90.]

[Footnote 53: _Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West
Indies_, 1701, pp. 720, 721.]

The Whydahs, Nagoes and Pawpaws of the Slave Coast were generally the most
highly esteemed of all. They were lusty and industrious, cheerful and
submissive. "That punishment which excites the Koromantyn to rebel,
and drives the Ebo negro to suicide, is received by the Pawpaws as the
chastisement of legal authority to which it is their duty to submit
patiently." As to the Eboes or Mocoes, described as having a sickly yellow
tinge in their complection, jaundiced eyes, and prognathous faces like
baboons, the women were said to be diligent but the men lazy, despondent
and prone to suicide. "They require therefore the gentlest and mildest
treatment to reconcile them to their situation; but if their confidence be
once obtained they manifest as great fidelity, affection and gratitude as
can reasonably be expected from men in a state of slavery."

The "kingdom of Gaboon," which straddled the equator, was the worst reputed
of all. "From thence a good negro was scarcely ever brought. They are
purchased so cheaply on the coast as to tempt many captains to freight with
them; but they generally die either on the passage or soon after
their arrival in the islands. The debility of their constitutions is
astonishing." From this it would appear that most of the so-called Gaboons
must have been in reality Pygmies caught in the inland equatorial forests,
for Bosman, who traded among the Gaboons, merely inveighed against their
garrulity, their indecision, their gullibility and their fondness for
strong drink, while as to their physique he observed: "they are mostly
large, robust well shaped men."[54] Of the Congoes and Angolas the Jamaican
writers had little to say except that in their glossy black they
were slender and sightly, mild in disposition, unusually honest, but
exceptionally stupid.

[Footnote 54: Bosman in Pinkerton's _Voyages_, XVI, 509, 510.]

In the South Carolina market Gambia negroes, mainly Mandingoes, were the
favorites, and Angolas also found ready sale; but cargoes from Calabar,
which were doubtless comprised mostly of Eboes, were shunned because of
their suicidal proclivity. Henry Laurens, who was then a commission dealer
at Charleston, wrote in 1755 that the sale of a shipload from Calabar then
in port would be successful only if no other Guinea ships arrived before
its quarantine was ended, for the people would not buy negroes of that
stock if any others were to be had.[55]

[Footnote 55: D.D. Wallace, _Life of Henry Laurens_, pp. 76, 77.]

It would appear that the Congoes, Angolas and Eboes were especially prone
to run away, or perhaps particularly easy to capture when fugitive, for
among the 1046 native Africans advertised as runaways held in the Jamaica
workhouses in 1803 there were 284 Eboes and Mocoes, 185 Congoes and 259
Angolas as compared with 101 Mandingoes, 60 Chambas (from Sierra Leone), 70
Coromantees, 57 Nagoes and Pawpaws, and 30 scattering, along with a total
of 488 American-born negroes and mulattoes, and 187 unclassified.[56]

[Footnote 56: These data were generously assembled for me by Professor
Chauncey S. Boucher of Washington University, St. Louis, from a file of the
_Royal Gazette_ of Kingston, Jamaica, for the year 1803, which is preserved
in the Charleston, S.C. Library.]

This huge maritime slave traffic had great consequences for all the
countries concerned. In Liverpool it made millionaires,[57] and elsewhere
in England, Europe and New England it brought prosperity not only to ship
owners but to the distillers of rum and manufacturers of other trade goods.
In the American plantation districts it immensely stimulated the production
of the staple crops. On the other hand it kept the planters constantly
in debt for their dearly bought labor, and it left a permanent and
increasingly complex problem of racial adjustments. In Africa, it largely
transformed the primitive scheme of life, and for the worse. It created new
and often unwholesome wants; it destroyed old industries and it corrupted
tribal institutions. The rum, the guns, the utensils and the gewgaws were
irresistible temptations. Every chief and every tribesman acquired
a potential interest in slave getting and slave selling. Charges of
witchcraft, adultery, theft and other crimes were trumped up that the
number of convicts for sale might be swelled; debtors were pressed that
they might be adjudged insolvent and their persons delivered to the
creditors; the sufferings of famine were left unrelieved that parents might
be forced to sell their children or themselves; kidnapping increased until
no man or woman and especially no child was safe outside a village; and
wars and raids were multiplied until towns by hundreds were swept from the
earth and great zones lay void of their former teeming population.[58]

[Footnote 57: Gomer Williams, chap. 6.]

[Footnote 58: C.B. Wadstrom, _Observations on the Slave Trade_ (London,
1789); Lord Muncaster, _Historical Sketches of the Slave Trade and of its
Effects in Africa_ (London, 1792); Jerome Dowd, _The Negro Races_, vol. 3,
chap. 2 (MS).]

The slave trade has well been called the systematic plunder of a continent.
But in the irony of fate those Africans who lent their hands to the looting
got nothing but deceptive rewards, while the victims of the rapine were
quite possibly better off on the American plantations than the captors
who remained in the African jungle. The only participants who got
unquestionable profit were the English, European and Yankee traders and



As regards negro slavery the history of the West Indies is inseparable from
that of North America. In them the plantation system originated and reached
its greatest scale, and from them the institution of slavery was extended
to the continent. The industrial system on the islands, and particularly
on those occupied by the British, is accordingly instructive as an
introduction and a parallel to the continental regime.

The early career of the island of Barbados gives a striking instance of
a farming colony captured by the plantation system. Founded in 1624 by a
group of unprosperous English emigrants, it pursued an even and commonplace
tenor until the Civil War in England sent a crowd of royalist refugees
thither, together with some thousands of Scottish and Irish prisoners
converted into indentured servants. Negro slaves were also imported to work
alongside the redemptioners in the tobacco, cotton, ginger, and indigo
crops, and soon proved their superiority in that climate, especially when
yellow fever, to which the Africans are largely immune, decimated the white
population. In 1643, as compared with some five thousand negroes of all
sorts, there were about eighteen thousand white men capable of bearing
arms; and in the little island's area of 166 square miles there were nearly
ten thousand separate landholdings. Then came the introduction of
sugar culture, which brought the beginning of the end of the island's
transformation. A fairly typical plantation in the transition period was
described by a contemporary. Of its five hundred acres about two hundred
were planted in sugar-cane, twenty in tobacco, five in cotton, five in
ginger and seventy in provision crops; several acres were devoted to
pineapples, bananas, oranges and the like; eighty acres were in pasturage,
and one hundred and twenty in woodland. There were a sugar mill, a boiling
house, a curing house, a distillery, the master's residence, laborers'
cabins, and barns and stables. The livestock numbered forty-five oxen,
eight cows, twelve horses and sixteen asses; and the labor force comprised
ninety-eight "Christians," ninety-six negroes and three Indian women
with their children. In general, this writer said, "The slaves and their
posterity, being subject to their masters forever, are kept and preserved
with greater care than the (Christian) servants, who are theirs for but
five years according to the laws of the island.[1] So that for the time
being the servants have the worser lives, for they are put to very hard
labor, ill lodging and their dyet very light."

[Footnote 1: Richard Ligon, _History of Barbados_ (London, 1657).]

As early as 1645 George Downing, then a young Puritan preacher recently
graduated from Harvard College but later a distinguished English diplomat,
wrote to his cousin John Winthrop, Jr., after a voyage in the West Indies:
"If you go to Barbados, you shal see a flourishing Iland, many able men. I
beleive they have bought this year no lesse than a thousand Negroes, and
the more they buie the better they are able to buye, for in a yeare and
halfe they will earne (with God's blessing) as much as they cost."[2]
Ten years later, with bonanza prices prevailing in the sugar market, the
Barbadian planters declared their colony to be "the most envyed of the
world" and estimated the value of its annual crops at a million pounds
sterling.[3] But in the early sixties a severe fall in sugar prices put an
end to the boom period and brought the realization that while sugar was the
rich man's opportunity it was the poor man's ruin. By 1666 emigration to
other colonies had halved the white population; but the slave trade had
increased the negroes to forty thousand, most of whom were employed on the
eight hundred sugar estates.[4] For the rest of the century Barbados held
her place as the leading producer of British sugar and the most esteemed
of the British colonies; but as the decades passed the fertility of her
limited fields became depleted, and her importance gradually fell secondary
to that of the growing Jamaica.

[Footnote 2: Massachusetts Historical Society _Collections_, series 4, vol.
6, p. 536.]

[Footnote 3: G.L. Beer, _Origins of the British Colonial System_ (New York,
1908), P. 413.]

[Footnote 4: G.L. Beer, _The Old Colonial System_, part I, vol. 2, pp. 9,

The Barbadian estates were generally much smaller than those of Jamaica
came to be. The planters nevertheless not only controlled their community
wholly in their interest but long maintained a unique "planters' committee"
at London to make representations to the English government on behalf of
their class. They pleaded for the colony's freedom of trade, for example,
with no more vigor than they insisted that England should not interfere
with the Barbadian law to prohibit Quakers from admitting negroes to their
meetings. An item significant of their attitude upon race relations is
the following from the journal of the Crown's committee of trade and
plantations, Oct. 8, 1680: "The gentlemen of Barbados attend, ... who
declare that the conversion of their slaves to Christianity would not only
destroy their property but endanger the island, inasmuch as converted
negroes grow more perverse and intractable than others, and hence of less
value for labour or sale. The disproportion of blacks to white being great,
the whites have no greater security than the diversity of the negroes'
languages, which would be destroyed by conversion in that it would be
necessary to teach them all English. The negroes are a sort of people so
averse to learning that they will rather hang themselves or run away than
submit to it." The Lords of Trade were enough impressed by this argument to
resolve that the question be left to the Barbadian government.[5]

[Footnote 5: _Calendar of State Papers, Colonial Series, America and West
Indies_, 1677-1680, p. 611.]

As illustrating the plantation regime in the island in the period of its
full industrial development, elaborate instructions are extant which were
issued about 1690 to Richard Harwood, manager or overseer of the Drax Hall
and Hope plantations belonging to the Codrington family. These included
directions for planting, fertilizing and cultivating the cane, for the
operation of the wind-driven sugar mill, the boiling and curing houses and
the distillery, and for the care of the live stock; but the main concern
was with the slaves. The number in the gangs was not stated, but the
expectation was expressed that in ordinary years from ten to twenty new
negroes would have to be bought to keep the ranks full, and it was advised
that Coromantees be preferred, since they had been found best for the work
on these estates. Plenty was urged in provision crops with emphasis upon
plantains and cassava,--the latter because of the certainty of its
harvest, the former because of the abundance of their yield in years of no
hurricanes and because the negroes especially delighted in them and
found them particularly wholesome as a dysentery diet. The services of a
physician had been arranged for, but the manager was directed to take great
care of the negroes' health and pay special attention to the sick. The
clothing was not definitely stated as to periods. For food each was
to receive weekly a pound of fish and two quarts of molasses, tobacco
occasionally, salt as needed, palm oil once a year, and home-grown
provisions in abundance. Offenses committed by the slaves were to be
punished immediately, "many of them being of the houmer of avoiding
punishment when threatened: to hang themselves." For drunkenness the stocks
were recommended. As to theft, recognized as especially hard to repress,
the manager was directed to let hunger give no occasion for it.[6]

[Footnote 6: Original MS. in the Bodleian Library, A. 248, 3. Copy used
through the courtesy of Dr. F.W. Pitman of Yale University.]

Jamaica, which lies a thousand miles west of Barbados and has twenty-five
times her area, was captured by the English in 1655 when its few hundreds
of Spaniards had developed nothing but cacao and cattle raising. English
settlement began after the Restoration, with Roundhead exiles supplemented
by immigrants from the Lesser Antilles and by buccaneers turned farmers.
Lands were granted on a lavish scale on the south side of the island where
an abundance of savannahs facilitated tillage; but the development of
sugar culture proved slow by reason of the paucity of slaves and the
unfamiliarity of the settlers with the peculiarities of the soil and
climate. With the increase of prosperity, and by the aid of managers
brought from Barbados, sugar plantations gradually came to prevail
all round the coast and in favorable mountain valleys, while smaller
establishments here and there throve more moderately in the production of
cotton, pimento, ginger, provisions and live stock. For many years the
legislature, prodded by occasional slave revolts, tried to stimulate the
increase of whites by requiring the planters to keep a fixed proportion of
indentured servants; but in the early eighteenth century this policy proved
futile, and thereafter the whites numbered barely one-tenth as many as
the negroes. The slaves were reported at 86,546 in 1734; 112,428 in 1744;
166,914 in 1768; and 210,894 in 1787. In addition there were at the last
date some 10,000 negroes legally free, and 1400 maroons or escaped slaves
dwelling permanently in the mountain fastnesses. The number of sugar
plantations was 651 in 1768, and 767 in 1791; and they contained about
three-fifths of all the slaves on the island. Throughout this latter part
of the century the average holding on the sugar estates was about 180
slaves of all ages.[7]

[Footnote 7: Edward Long, _History of Jamaica_, I, 494, Bryan Edwards,
_History of the British Colonies in the West Indies_, book II, appendix.]

When the final enumeration of slaves in the British possessions was made
in the eighteen-thirties there were no single Jamaica holdings reported as
large as that of 1598 slaves held by James Blair in Guiana; but occasional
items were of a scale ranging from five to eight hundred each, and hundreds
numbered above one hundred each. In many of these instances the same
persons are listed as possessing several holdings, with Sir Edward Hyde
East particularly notable for the large number of his great squads. The
degree of absenteeism is indicated by the frequency of English nobles,
knights and gentlemen among the large proprietors. Thus the Earl of
Balcarres had 474 slaves; the Earl of Harwood 232; the Earl and Countess of
Airlie 59; Earl Talbot and Lord Shelborne jointly 79; Lord Seaford 70; Lord
Hatherton jointly with Francis Downing, John Benbow and the Right Reverend
H. Philpots, Lord Bishop of Exeter, two holdings of 304 and 236 slaves
each; and the three Gladstones, Thomas, William and Robert 468 slaves

[Footnote 8: "Accounts of Slave Compensation Claims," in the British
official _Account: and Papers, 1837-1838_, vol. XLVIII.]

Such an average scale and such a prevalence of absenteeism never prevailed
in any other Anglo-American plantation community, largely because none of
the other staples required so much manufacturing as sugar did in preparing
the crops for market. As Bryan Edwards wrote in 1793: "the business of
sugar planting is a sort of adventure in which the man that engages must
engage deeply.... It requires a capital of no less than thirty thousand
pounds sterling to embark in this employment with a fair prospect of
success." Such an investment, he particularized, would procure and
establish as a going concern a plantation of 300 acres in cane and 100
acres each in provision crops, forage and woodland, together with the
appropriate buildings and apparatus, and a working force of 80 steers, 60
mules and 250 slaves, at the current price for these last of L50 sterling
a head.[9] So distinctly were the plantations regarded as capitalistic
ventures that they came to be among the chief speculations of their time
for absentee investors.

[Footnote 9: Bryan Edwards, _History of the West Indies_, book 5, chap. 3.]

When Lord Chesterfield tried in 1767 to buy his son a seat in Parliament he
learned "that there was no such thing as a borough to be had now, for that
the rich East and West Indians had secured them all at the rate of three
thousand pounds at the least."[10] And an Englishman after traveling in the
French and British Antilles in 1825 wrote: "The French colonists, whether
Creoles or Europeans, consider the West Indies as their country; they cast
no wistful looks toward France.... In our colonies it is quite different;
... every one regards the colony as a temporary lodging place where they
must sojourn in sugar and molasses till their mortgages will let them live
elsewhere. They call England their home though many of them have never
been there.... The French colonist deliberately expatriates himself; the
Englishman never."[11] Absenteeism was throughout a serious detriment. Many
and perhaps most of the Jamaica proprietors were living luxuriously in
England instead of industriously on their estates. One of them, the
talented author "Monk" Lewis, when he visited his own plantation in
1815-1817, near the end of his life, found as much novelty in the doings of
his slaves as if he had been drawing his income from shares in the Banc of
England; but even he, while noting their clamorous good nature was chiefly
impressed by their indolence and perversity.[12] It was left for an invalid
traveling for his health to remark most vividly the human equation: "The
negroes cannot be silent; they talk in spite of themselves. Every passion
acts upon them with strange intensity, their anger is sudden and furious,
their mirth clamorous and excessive, their curiosity audacious, and their
love the sheer demand for gratification of an ardent animal desire. Yet
by their nature they are good-humored in the highest degree, and I know
nothing more delightful than to be met by a group of negro girls and to be
saluted with their kind 'How d'ye massa? how d'ye massa?'"[13]

[Footnote 10: Lord Chesterfield, _Letters to his Son_ (London, 1774), II,

[Footnote 11: H.N. Coleridge, _Six Months in the West Indies_, 4th ed.
(London, 1832), pp. 131, 132.]

[Footnote 12: Matthew G. Lewis, _Journal of a West Indian Proprietor, kept
during a Residence in the Island of Jamaica_ (London, 1834).]

[Footnote 13: H.N. Coleridge, p. 76.]

On the generality of the plantations the tone of the management was too
much like that in most modern factories. The laborers were considered more
as work-units than as men, women and children. Kindliness and comfort,
cruelty and hardship, were rated at balance-sheet value; births and deaths
were reckoned in profit and loss, and the expense of rearing children was
balanced against the cost of new Africans. These things were true in some
degree in the North American slaveholding communities, but in the West
Indies they excelled.

In buying new negroes a practical planter having a preference for those of
some particular tribal stock might make sure of getting them only by taking
with him to the slave ships or the "Guinea yards" in the island ports a
slave of the stock wanted and having him interrogate those for sale in
his native language to learn whether they were in fact what the dealers
declared them to be. Shrewdness was even more necessary to circumvent other
tricks of the trade, especially that of fattening up, shaving and oiling
the skins of adult slaves to pass them off as youthful. The ages most
desired in purchasing were between fifteen and twenty-five years. If these
were not to be had well grown children were preferable to the middle-aged,
since they were much less apt to die in the "seasoning," they would learn
English readily, and their service would increase instead of decreasing
after the lapse of the first few years.

The conversion of new negroes into plantation laborers, a process called
"breaking in," required always a mingling of delicacy and firmness. Some
planters distributed their new purchases among the seasoned households,
thus delegating the task largely to the veteran slaves. Others housed and
tended them separately under the charge of a select staff of nurses and
guardians and with frequent inspection from headquarters. The mortality
rate was generally high under either plan, ranging usually from twenty to
thirty per cent, in the seasoning period of three or four years. The deaths
came from diseases brought from Africa, such as the yaws which was similar
to syphilis; from debilities and maladies acquired on the voyage; from the
change of climate and food; from exposure incurred in running away; from
morbid habits such as dirt-eating; and from accident, manslaughter and

[Footnote 14: Long, _Jamaica_, II, 435; Edwards, _West Indies_, book
4, chap. 5; A Professional Planter, _Rules_, chap. 2; Thomas Roughley,
_Jamaica Planter's Guide_ (London, 1823), pp. 118-120.]

The seasoned slaves were housed by families in separate huts grouped into
"quarters," and were generally assigned small tracts on the outskirts of
the plantation on which to raise their own provision crops. Allowances of
clothing, dried fish, molasses, rum, salt, etc., were issued them from the
commissary, together with any other provisions needed to supplement their
own produce. The field force of men and women, boys and girls was generally
divided according to strength into three gangs, with special details for
the mill, the coppers and the still when needed; and permanent corps were
assigned to the handicrafts, to domestic service and to various incidental
functions. The larger the plantation, of course, the greater the
opportunity of differentiating tasks and assigning individual slaves to
employments fitted to their special aptitudes.

The planters put such emphasis upon the regularity and vigor of the routine
that they generally neglected other equally vital things. They ignored the
value of labor-saving devices, most of them even shunning so obviously
desirable an implement as the plough and using the hoe alone in breaking
the land and cultivating the crops. But still more serious was the passive
acquiescence in the depletion of their slaves by excess of deaths over
births. This decrease amounted to a veritable decimation, requiring the
frequent importation of recruits to keep the ranks full. Long estimated
this loss at about two per cent. annually, while Edwards reckoned that in
his day there were surviving in Jamaica little more than one-third as many
negroes as had been imported in the preceding career of the colony.[15] The
staggering mortality rate among the new negroes goes far toward accounting
for this; but even the seasoned groups generally failed to keep up their
numbers. The birth rate was notoriously small; but the chief secret of the
situation appears to have lain in the poor care of the newborn children. A
surgeon of long experience said that a third of the babies died in their
first month, and that few of the imported women bore children; and another
veteran resident said that commonly more than a quarter of the babies died
within the first nine days, of "jaw-fall," and nearly another fourth before

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